Sidewalk Sale brings new bank customers

If you’re working to build your retail business, you have a lot in common with many companies in the malls and shopping centers. There’s more competition than ever from across the street and across the globe. The successful retailers are innovating, building their brands and creating special promotions that make lifelong, loyal customers.

Innovative bankers can borrow from those successes to welcome new business.

Here are some strategies inspired by retailers but reimagined for financial institutions to build your institution's customer base.

Behold the sidewalks
Your bank actually has two sidewalks: the physical space in front of your branches, and the virtual space on your website and social media. By using both to their utmost advantage, you’ll have more marketing opportunities that build your customer base and get people talking.

What are you doing to get noticed? Profitable retailers make huge visual splashes for even bigger impact. You can, too.

The physical sidewalk
The physical sidewalk includes all of your “front of house” infrastructure. It’s the lobby, the public-facing windows and the actual sidewalk out front. Think of ideas for making it work harder for you.

Window dressing
Many retailers decorate their windows with colorful, well-lit, eye catching and ever changing displays. They cleverly assemble their merchandise to create fantastic stories. Shoppers are hooked as they stop to look—and imagine themselves the central figures of those stories.

You can create exciting displays, too. Giant posters on the windows may be a good start. But you can take it much further: build displays like the retailers do.

Boats, RVs, vacation homes and travel to exotic locations are just a few of the dreams your bank funds. You can create window displays with suitcases, tropical flowers, sunscreen and the other mementos of a fabulous trip. Add some signage about how you can help make these dreams a reality.

Get bonus points if you work with other brands and businesses to borrow or rent the items you need for your displays. Promoting each other makes your advertising budget go further.

Sidewalk sale
Several times a year, some retailers make a big splash with a sidewalk sale. They bring lots of merchandise out on the sidewalk, play music and offer cool drinks. They rent bright inflatables like bouncy houses to attract kids and watch the traffic pour in.

You could have a sidewalk sale of your own. Partner with a car, RV or boat dealership and display a dream vehicle out in your parking lot. Make sure it’s snazzy, colorful and exciting. Offer cool drinks and enticing fun for the kids. Hold a prize drawing so you can collect contact information for your marketing database. Promote your loan or HELOC products and have lots of bankers ready to answer questions and take loan apps on their iPads.

The virtual sidewalk
Many banks put up their websites and forget them. Some have hit-and-miss social media, while others treat their virtual presence as an afterthought. Don’t be like those banks.Door hanger bank sales promotionsThis door hanger invited neighbors to a retail-inspired grand opening week. (click to enlarge)

Successful retailers never make these mistakes. They leverage their online presence to the max so their advertising message reaches multiple people with multiple impressions. Use your online presence to support your traditional media and sales promotions for a fully integrated plan. Consider the local and national retailers that are setting a good example for banks.

VIP programs
A Topeka, Kansas-based retailer—Ash Boutique—has a special invite-only Facebook VIP page. (Hint: it’s easy to get invited…just ask.) And though I know there are 4,000 other people just as special as I am, Ash still makes me feel like a VIP. Why?

  • VIPs are notified about sales before the general public.
  • VIPs get invited to special events with muffins and mimosas (yes!).
  • VIPs can shop before or after the store officially opens.
  • VIPs can get personal delivery.

This is a lot of activity. It’s coordinated and highly visible on their website, Facebook and Instagram accounts. This much activity tells viewers that Ash is wide open for business, lots is happening and there’s always something new. VIPs feel like insiders. And they tell their friends.

You should make your customers and prospects feel like insiders, too.

Make it personal
Nordstrom creates some of the stickiest relationships of any major retailer. Its marketing emails are personalized based on shopper history and preferences. They show my friend Nancy petite merchandise and natural fibers when they extend “you might like” offers to her.

Me? I get emails with red-soled shoes.

The lesson: even though they’re doing business online, they’re creating relationships because they treat customers like people they know, not a faceless and homogenous audience.

You have the opportunity to create meaningful personal relationships online when you tailor your offerings to customers based on their age, family size, lifestyle and actions they’ve already established with you. For instance:

  • Safe deposit boxes and identity theft education go hand-in-hand.
  • Setting up a trust and growing families are a natural fit.
  • IRAs and retirement planning grow more urgent as customers age.

With today’s technology, you can also start reaching out to the people you want to attract, but haven’t yet connected.

More inspiration
What other typical retail activities can inspire you?

  • Children’s sidewalk chalk art exhibition
  • Bounce-back coupons
  • One-day-only sales
  • Radio remote advertising events
  • Contests
  • Buy one/get one promotions
  • Back to school
  • Black Friday

Brainstorm with your marketing department, business development team, front-line bankers, operations and other departments. Make sure the ideas align with your brand. Together, you can develop some creative ways to make your sidewalk a can’t-miss. When it’s this inviting and attractive, customers will be knocking down your doors.

This article was first published in the American Bankers Association Journal.

For help developing marketing strategies to build your retail traffic, call Martha Bartlett Piland direct at 785.969.6203. You can also order her newest book, Beyond Sticky here.